SSDI attorney meeting with client

Case Spotlight – September 2022

Attorney Jason Pearson at Disability Law Group recently helped a veteran client receive a 100% rating dating back more than a decade. His client served in both the Air Force and the Army, and he developed significant hearing loss and tinnitus with vertigo in service, resulting in a diagnosis of Meniere’s Disease. Ultimately, he was separated from service for the condition and granted service connection at 30% in 2005. However, his symptoms gradually became much worse.

As a result, in November 2010, the veteran filed for an increase of his Meniere’s Disease, requesting 100% evaluation. With his claim, he submitted statements from family and friends confirming hearing loss and with attacks of vertigo and staggering more than once a week (required for a 100% rating for the condition). VA sent the veteran to a medical exam where the examiner failed to conduct the proper testing and ignored statements made by the veteran regarding his symptoms. Based on the inadequate examination, VA denied the veteran’s request for an increase. Evidence in the file, which included statements from relatives that they have witnessed the symptoms which qualify for 100%, and the veteran’s VAMC medical records showing he was complaining of symptoms that qualify him for 100%, were ignored.

The veteran appealed VA’s denial. In fact, he spent the next several years dealing with the VA appellate process. He eventually appealed VA’s denials to the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA) in January 2016, which remanded the case in 2018, telling VA to obtain a new examination. VA obtained a new examination in July 2019 which resulted in VA granting the veteran 100% for Meniere’s Disease in a September 2019 Rating Decision. However, VA only granted the increase back to the July 2019 C&P examination, claiming this is when VA had the evidence of the veteran meets the criteria for 100%.

The veteran came to our firm in November 2021, well past the one-year date for a traditional appeal. He had spent more than two years trying to get help with an earlier effective date. Offices were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and finding representation was difficult during that time. Before he found our office, the one-year deadline for appeal had passed. He kept reaching out for help but was told time and again that because the decision was more than one year old, there was nothing he could do.

That changed when he contacted Disability Law Group. Because our attorneys keep apprised of the latest developments in VA law, we knew VA provided extensions for late appeals due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this case qualified. So we took his case! We filed a Higher Level Review and explained that the appeal was being filed late due to the pandemic. VA followed up with a letter stating that our appeal was rejected because it was filed more than one year after the last decision. Undeterred, our attorneys reminded VA of its own rules and once again requested that the appeal be opened.

Recognizing that we were correct, VA finally scheduled the Informal Conference for the Higher Level Review. Because our attorneys spend a great deal of time going through each page of a client’s VA file, the attorney working on the veteran’s file knew each piece of evidence in the file and when it was received. During the informal conference, our attorney pointed out each piece of evidence and why it required VA to provide an earlier effective date for a 100% rating. A few weeks later, VA issued a new decision which granted a rating for 100% for Meniere’s Disease effective November 2010. We are all very glad that the veteran did not give up.

The lawyers at Disability Law Group understand how complicated this area of law can be. If you, or someone you know, suffers from mental health issues due to VA care or time in the service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

 

Veteran's widow receiving US flag at funeral

Case Spotlight – August 2022

One of the main reasons the founding Partners of Disability Law Group started their own firm is because we wanted to create a law firm that gave back to the community. One of the ways the partners can do this is through Pro-Bono Cases. The VA has limitations on what stage an attorney can enter into a fee contract with a Veteran or a substituted party. Most of the time, this limitation will limit when an attorney can assist with obtaining benefits, but there are times when the injustice seems too much. The attorneys at Disability Law Group know they need to help even if they cannot receive a fee.

Attorney Mandy Kelly Wins Pro-Bono Case for Veteran’s Widow

In August of 2020, Partner Mandy Kelly decided to take a pro-bono case to assist a widow of a disabled veteran get the survivor benefits she was entitled to. The Veteran’s widow came to Mandy Kelly for advice on filing a cause of death claim before the Department of Veteran Affairs. Her deceased husband struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues for a long time.  Unfortunately, this substance abuse led to his death. With a disabled child to take care of, the widow knew she needed an experienced attorney’s help to get the survivor benefits she was entitled to. Mandy Kelly prepared the widow’s “cause of death” claim by gathering the appropriate medical records, obtaining a medical opinion, and submitting the fully developed claim to the VA. Unfortunately, the VA ordered an unnecessary medical opinion and denied the claim even though the record was clear that the Veteran’s service-connected mental health issues led to the veteran’s death.

Attorney Mandy Kelly quickly filed a Higher Level Review appeal and conducted an informal conference. She pointed out that the record was clear that the Veteran’s mental health condition led him to substance abuse issues that ultimately caused his death. The Decision Review Officer agreed with Mandy Kelly, and the widow was finally able to receive the benefits she was entitled to.

The lawyers at Disability Law Group understand how complicated this area of law can be. If you, or someone you know, suffers from mental health issues due to VA care or time in the service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

Case-spotlight-june

Case Spotlight – June 2022

Earlier this month, Disability Law Group secured benefits for a young man struggling to cope with his mental health conditions.  He had spent the better part of the last two years homeless and in and out of jobs that, due to his mental illness, he simply was not able to maintain.  Winning his disability case was a lifeline for the claimant, helping him maintain housing and focus on his mental health. In fact, the benefits he would receive through Social Security for his disability would provide not only a monetary benefit but insurance he desperately needed as well. 

Cases involving young people with mental illnesses are some of the most difficult cases to win.  For claimants under 50, the Social Security Administration must find that the claimant cannot do even the least mentally and physically demanding full-time (or substantially gainful) job available in substantial numbers in the economy.  This is a high burden, made harder in the absence of physical limitations. 

Despite the difficulties, there are several ways to present a case involving mental illness, as Disability Law Group was able to do for the above claimant. Regular treatment, consistent statements regarding the severity and nature of the symptoms, along with compliance with medication, all contribute to help to overcome the high burden and prove disability. 

Due to the subjective nature of mental health complaints, hearing testimony becomes critical in a case mainly involving mental illness. Disability Law Group attorneys spent time preparing the claimant to testify at the hearing, including prepping him for what to expect, reviewing the medical file with each client along with any past statements, and preparing for the questions that would be asked by the judge and/or the attorney at the hearing. 

Additionally, Disability Law Group fought hard to make sure that each and every medical file was put before the judge for consideration. Attorney Nura Lutfi drafted a detailed brief outlining the medical records and made an impassioned argument at her client’s hearing outlining his impairments and the devastating impact they had on his life.  Disability Law Group went the extra mile to win this case.  As a result, the claimant was approved for the benefits he so much deserved!

Whether you have a mental health condition or a combination of health problems, you may be eligible for disability benefits. No matter how old you are, you could be entitled to receive monthly payments and insurance based on your disabling conditions. Mental health conditions, while difficult to win on its own, can qualify you or a loved one for disability. Our Social Security Disability Attorneys only practice disability and our consultations are always free. You can call us today to better understand your rights and how to properly plan for the future.

Case Spotlight – February 2022

In 2019, a Navy Veteran came to Disability Law Group after he was denied service connection for 5 years. He was claiming service connection from the VA for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident that he was involved in while serving in the Navy. His conditions ranged from degenerative arthritis of his neck and back, radiculopathy of his arms, depression, and obstructive sleep apnea. This accident changed his life and caused him serious pain and difficulty functioning day-to-day. Unfortunately, the Veteran was even unable to work because of his injuries. Attorney Bridget Drop took on the case and knew right away that a clear medical opinion and supportive medical literature would be essential to proving service connection and helping this veteran win his case and the compensation he deserved. 

In order to prove a condition is service-connected a veteran must prove the existence of a current disability, in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury, and causal relationship between the present disability and the in-service event, also known as the “nexus”. There are, however, different theories of service connection. “Secondary” service connection occurs when a service-connected disability causes or aggravates another condition or illness. 

In this case, the team at Disability Law Group worked together to review the file, obtain all medical evidence needed, the Veteran’s entire file, including his personnel records, and even additional letters in support. Attorney Bridget Drop got to work in assisting the Veteran with a detailed medical opinion, supported by medical literature, that helped make it clear that the Veteran’s current conditions were either caused by, or secondary to, his in-service accident. 

Attorney Drop provided the Board of Veterans’ Appeals with the updated evidence, critical testimony from the Veteran, and her argument that a high-impact accident can cause degenerative arthritis, resulting in many of the conditions her client suffers from today. Medical literature was also supplied that supports that obesity is a leading risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, and because of the Veteran’s physical conditions that were caused by the motor vehicle accident in service, he was unable to exercise leading to his excessive weight gain. Here, the theory was that his obesity was caused by his back condition which was a direct result of his accident in service. 

A Board of Veterans’ Appeals Decision from December 2021 determined that the Veteran’s back and neck degenerative arthritis and depression was caused by the motor vehicle accident in service and that his obstructive sleep apnea was indeed secondary to his back and neck conditions. We were successful in proving service connection for our client for his claims, resulting in a large lump sum of back-pay and monthly compensation for our client. The attorneys at Disability Law Group understand that Veterans rely on VA disability benefits when their service-connected disabilities prevent them from working and use their knowledge of disability benefits to get their clients all of the benefits they are entitled to. Our consultations are always free, and disability is all we do.  

Case Spotlight – January 2022

Attorney Erika Riggs was contacted by a family from Allen Park, Michigan, who had been referred to her for help with their disabled adult daughter. Prior to contacting Attorney Riggs, the family had gone through a long, complicated battle on their own for the daughter’s disability benefits. She has autism and severe, congenital oral apraxia. Her father was a retired psychiatrist and had been previously told that the only benefit available for his daughter was called Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, he was first told that she would not qualify for SSI as the account in her name placed her just over the resource limit. Therefore, after a Special Needs Trust was properly established for her, the family submitted an application for SSI to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

To be eligible for SSI, the claimant must be under the resource limit and considered “disabled” under SSA’s strict definition for disability. Specifically, the claimant must be under resources which is about $2,000.00 for an individual or $3,000.00 for a married couple. SSA takes a strict approach to evaluating the claimant’s resources, and will closely examine all assets when determining eligibility. These assets include, for example, money in bank accounts, pension, 401K, stocks, and more, and considers all other kinds of support (e.g. alimony, child support, settlement funds, etc.). Thankfully, his daughter was 32 years old when her SSI claim was approved, meaning that SSA agreed that she was both disabled since she filed at age 32, and that she met the resource-threshold to qualify.

However, her father wondered if this was the right disability benefit for her, and he became worried about what would happen upon his passing; he knew that his disabled daughter may not be able to sustain on the SSI amount alone. He discovered another disability program that could be available for his daughter, called Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits, also known as Child’s Disability Benefits. For DAC eligibility, as opposed to SSI, resources and assets (other than income from work), are not considered. The DAC benefit provides Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits to a disabled adult – based on the work record of their qualifying parent – who can prove that the disability began prior to attaining age 22. Additionally, a qualifying parent would need to have acquired sufficient work credits before one of the following triggering events: retirement, disability, or death.

In this case, the disabled daughter would be eligible for DAC benefits based on her parent’s qualifying work record and upon her father’s retirement, triggering technical eligibility. Therefore, the family decided to file for DAC disability benefits on their own since they also already had a determination that the daughter was disabled from SSA as she continued to collect SSI payments. Further, with her father being a psychiatrist, and a wonderful advocate for his daughter, he figured he would be able to help her win on their own without a disability attorney. Unfortunately, however, they received a denial for her DAC benefit claim. The reason for her denial was that SSA determined that her conditions, autism and severe oral apraxia – although currently considered to be severe – were not found to be severe enough under the rules to find her “disabled” and unable to work prior to her reaching age 22 (ten years prior). At this point, he knew he needed to call an experienced disability attorney to help with an appeal.

When he called Disability Law Group, he was met with kindness and expertise. Attorney Erika Riggs took careful time to review all of the records and talk with the family to understand how to best advocate for her client. She decided that she would take the case and help win DAC benefits for his daughter, knowing that it would not be an easy fight; she was up for the challenge. Our team ordered all missing and updated medical evidence to help support disability since before her client turned age 22. Attorney Riggs also drafted detailed Medical Source Statements and Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) report for her client’s doctors to complete to help add more evidence. She then obtained letters in support from her client’s family, adding further support to her case. Team DLG submitted all evidence, and diligently followed up on her case. Erika argued that her client met the new listing for Autism, under SSA Listing 12.10, showing that she met all the criteria required since well before she turned age 22. The Autism Listing 12.10 requires medical proof of both qualitative deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication as well as social interaction, and at least a marked limitation in two (or extreme limitation in one) of the following criteria:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapt or manage oneself

Within just 6 months, after filing an appeal called a Request for Reconsideration, SSA agreed that Erika’s client had truly been disabled under the rules, and unable to work, for at least the last 10 years. Therefore, SSA overturned their initial decision and approved DAC benefits for her client. As a result, she is now receiving thousands of dollars more in benefits, and their family has peace of mind in knowing that she is now collecting a more substantial benefit, preservation of her assets, as well as Medicare insurance to help with her ongoing medical care.

If you or someone you know has severe autism, or other serious problems that keep you from being able to work and affect your ability to function normally, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We pride ourselves on helping disabled individuals receive disability benefits as quickly as possible. Whether you have been denied, or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with an attorney for a free consultation to understand your rights and get the representation that you deserve.

December Case Spotlight

In May 2021, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a discouraged man who was denied by the Social Security Administration for a second time and needed assistance with an appeal. He had a prior Unfavorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dated October 17, 2018, which he never appealed. In his case, the time to appeal or bring a new claim is especially critical because his work credits expired shortly after the prior ALJ’s decision. The date his work credits expired is called the date last insured (DLI) of December 31, 2018. The importance of the DLI in this case is that he must have been found to be disabled before the DLI for him to be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, and now also that his disability had significantly worsened since the prior ALJ decision. The claimant was suffering from a combination of physical and mental health conditions that had worsened over the last few years.

He knew he needed help and searched for the best attorney for him that would fight for his disability benefits. When he called Disability Law Group, he was met with empathy and felt confident that he was at the right place for help in his disability claim. Within a week of receiving his signed documents, we filed our appearance to assist him with his case at the hearing level. During this period, we ordered updated medical records from his health providers, and focused specifically on any significant medical records between October 2018 and December 2018.

Upon further review of his case, attorney Randall Mansour discovered that the claimant had only re-applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and not SSD, believing that his credits had expired and therefore that he would not qualify. Additionally, when the claimant re-applied, he stated that his disability began on December 18, 2019, which was after his DLI, thereby precluding SSD eligibility.  Attorney Mansour explained the process to his client and immediately filed a claim for SSD, stating he had been disabled since November 5, 2018. Next, he obtained a highly supportive CT scan of the claimant’s lumbar spine confirming his worsening condition, dated November 5, 2018, which was before his DLI.

By the time of the new hearing, the claimant was prepared to testify regarding the critical period at issue for his case, knowing that all pertinent records have been submitted and reviewed. During the hearing, attorney Randall Mansour argued the claimant’s conditions worsened right after the prior ALJ decision, as indicated with the CT scan results, medical treatment notes in his file, and the claimant’s well prepared testimony.  The ALJ agreed and allowed the motion to go through, resulting in a favorable decision which was rendered approximately 3 weeks after the hearing was held.

Our office continued to fight diligently for our clients’ Social Security Disability benefits. By amending the claimant’s alleged onset date backwards before his DLI expired, the claimant immediately receives Medicare, a higher monthly Social Security check, and a substantially greater lump sum payment for his back-pay.

If you or someone you know are suffering from any physical impairments or mental health, contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We will work with you, and alongside your doctors, to ensure all evidence needed is received. You can rely on our team at Disability Law Group from start to finish to provide you with the expert advice and compassionate representation and the benefits you deserve.

korean war veteran holding american flag

November Case Spotlight

In November 2021 Partner Mandy Kelly received a great win for a Korean War Veteran. The Veteran became Mandy Kelly’s client several years ago while trying to prove that his service-connected conditions prevented him from working.  In April 2020, attorney Mandy Kelly was successful in proving that the Veteran was entitled to receive Individual Unemployability benefits retroactive to 2009 due to his service-connected back condition and his traumatic brain injury (TBI). Individual Unemployability is granted when a veteran’s service-connected conditions prevent him or her from securing or maintaining substantial gainful employment. The Veteran and his spouse were elated with such a large retroactive amount, but Mandy Kelly knew that the fight for all of his benefits and her work was not done.  The Veteran also suffered from Parkinson’s disease and Mandy Kelly knew that it was important for her to get this condition service-connected as well.  With Parkinson’s Disease being such a severe condition, it was important to protect the Veteran’s spouse in the event that his condition caused his death in the future. One way a veteran’s spouse is entitled to continuing benefits after a Veteran passes is if the veteran dies due to a service-connected condition.

Generally, to establish service connection, a claimant must show: (1) a present disability; (2) an in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service, the so-called “nexus” requirement. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303. Establishing service connection on a secondary basis requires evidence sufficient to show (1) that a current disability exists and (2) that the current disability was either (a) proximately caused by or (b) proximately aggravated by a service-connected disability.  In this case, attorney Mandy Kelly was able to provide the Board of Veterans’ Appeals with medical literature and a well-reasoned medical opinion supporting the conclusion that current medical research indicates that those who suffer a TBI are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

A Board of Veterans’ Appeals Decision from July 2021 ultimately determined that the Veteran’s Parkinson’s disease was proximately due to his service-connected TBI.  The lawyers at Disability Law Group understand that a favorable decision like this one can give a veteran comfort in knowing that if something happens to him, continuing benefits for a surviving spouse will be there. If you, or someone you know, suffers from a TBI or Parkinson’s disease, and believe it was caused by service, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.

October Case Spotlight

In the early part of 2020, attorney Erika Riggs was contacted by a woman from New Baltimore, Michigan, who had been referred to her as someone known for zealous and compassionate representation. She had previously worked for decades in sedentary type positions for Motor City Stamping and as a purchasing agent for a local plant. However, by about age 50, she began experience increased pain and symptoms making it difficult for her to do the work she loved and took great pride in for the majority of her life. She suffered from heart conditions, palpitations, hypertension, arthritis of her neck and back, fibromyalgia, Barrett’s esophagitis with severe stomach and esophageal pain, as well as anxiety. On top of this, her husband passed away and her children were all grown with busy lives of their own. After exhausting her savings and 401K for nearly 10 years after she stopped working, and now at almost 60 years old, she was told by a friend that there may be programs available to help her; she knew that she could no longer work due to her health problems, but she did not know about programs like Social Security Disability, Disabled Widows Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income.

Attorney Erika Riggs immediately got to work on her case, explaining what programs are available to her, what to expect from the very start, and how to increase her chances of being approved. The team at Disability Law Group prepared and submitted her application for Social Security Disability benefits, and diligently followed-up on the case. Mrs. Riggs believed that her client would be working if she was able, but that her medical conditions have become too severe and debilitating for her. Erika always made herself available via email correspondences, text messages and phone calls to ensure that her client was informed along the way while her office obtained all medical records and supportive documents. Unfortunately, this case presented the additional challenge of proving that her disability began before her work credits expired in December of 2015, nearly 5 years prior to filing the application and reaching out for help.

Many people do not know that there is an expiration date for our work credits, and that the timing of that is controlled by when the individual claiming disability stops working. Generally, you have 5 years from when you stop working full-time, assuming you have enough work credits based on your prior work history, to be eligible for disability benefits. In this case, Erika knew that she would need to work with her client’s doctors to obtain medical source statements detailing her symptoms and limitations beginning in at least 2015. While this was no easy task, especially considering some of these doctors were no longer treating her client or even located in Michigan, she was up for the challenge.

During the video hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Erika presented evidence showing that her client was unable to tolerate the Stress Test attempted in 2014, and obtained testimony from her client demonstrating that she felt tired, weak, and short of breath on a daily basis, in addition to the pain and anxiety she struggled with daily since that time. Next, Mrs. Riggs argued that, as a result, her client would be unable to perform the mental demands of her skilled past work she was used to performing for so many years, and that therefore even with a Sedentary RFC since 2015, she would be found disabled under the applicable Medical-Vocational Rules. The ALJ then went right to the Vocational Expert (VE) and agreed that Erika’s client is “disabled” under Social Security’s rules, and awarded her benefits, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of back-pay owed to her, along with Medicare insurance coverage.

If you or someone you know are suffering from pain or other serious problems that keep you from being able to work and affect your ability to function normally, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We pride ourselves on helping disabled individuals receive disability benefits as quickly as possible. Whether you have been denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with an attorney for a free consultation to understand your rights and get the representation that you deserve.

Family member of SSDI client

September Case Spotlight

In January 2020, attorney Randall Mansour received a phone call from a discouraged woman who was denied by the Social Security Administration at the initial level. The claimant was suffering from severe mental health conditions that had worsened over the last few years. At this point, her mental health provider had recommended she apply for benefits, as she too was concerned about her patient’s mental state and ability to function, especially in a competitive work environment. Her therapist knew that this woman needed help and additional resources that could get her through this tough time and even improve her quality of life.

When she called Disability Law Group, she was met with empathy and felt confident that she was at the right place for help in her disability claim. Immediately, Disability Law Group worked together to file her request for reconsideration on the earlier decision denying her benefits to ensure the Social Security Administration would take another look at her disability claim. During this period, our staff worked diligently to obtain updated medical records from her mental health provider, and her attorney even drafted a Medical Source Statement to help document the severity of her symptoms and resulting work-related limitations of her conditions. While another denial was issued at the Reconsideration level – which is most common at this stage – Mr. Mansour did not give up. Our staff immediately filed an appeal, requesting a hearing before an ALJ.

Within only a few months of filing the appeal to appear in front of an ALJ, a phone hearing was scheduled. Prior to the phone hearing, an additional Medical Source Statement from the treating psychiatrist was requested and obtained in support of her case. Moreover, Attorney Mansour submitted a detailed memorandum to the ALJ that asserted the claimant met a mental Listing due to the severity of his client’s mental health impairments. The ALJ considered everything and decided to send the claimant’s file to a Medical Expert for interrogatories. Once Randall received the unfavorable interrogatories, he reviewed them immediately and filed an objection to the Medical Expert as the doctor was a pediatrician and not a psychiatrist who specializes in mental health.

Fortunately, the ALJ agreed with counsel’s objection and scheduled a supplemental hearing with a psychiatrist to reassess the claimant’s conditions. At the hearing, the psychiatrist agreed that the claimant not only met one listing but also met at least two other listings which resulted in a ‘Fully Favorable’ decision. Thankfully, our client can now obtain not only back-pay she was owed and monthly benefits to rely on in helping her pay her bills and provide her with a critical medical insurance to seek additional services, but she felt heard and supported.

If you or someone you know are suffering from any impairment – mental, cognitive and/or physical – contact us today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. We will work with you, and alongside your doctors, to ensure all evidence needed is received and your rights are protected. You can rely on our team at Disability Law Group from start to finish to provide you with the expert advice and compassionate representation to help deliver the benefits you deserve.

August Case Spotlight

In August 2021 Partner Mandy Kelly received a great win for a widow of a disabled Veteran. The Veteran surviving’s spouse came to Mandy Kelly several years earlier contending that her husband’s brain cancer was caused by his exposure to oil well fires and burn pits while serving in Kuwait. The widow was armed with medical literature to support this contention, but she knew brain cancer was not a condition that the VA presumes is caused by exposures from the Gulf War. Mandy Kelly knew that this would be an uphill battle for this widow but was willing to take on the challenge.  The Veteran served on active duty from 1989 to 1993, with additional National Guard service. Military personnel records demonstrate that the Veteran was involved in Operation Eager Mace in Kuwait. After thoroughly reviewing the Veteran’s service records, Mandy Kelly was able to obtain not one, but three doctors to agree that the chemicals the Veteran was exposed to can lead to brain cancer.

Generally, to establish service connection, a claimant must show: (1) a present disability; (2) an in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service, the so-called “nexus” requirement. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303.

To establish service connection for cause of death, there are many complex rules and difficult hurdles that a veteran must meet. However, a veterans disability attorney can help a veteran navigate the veterans benefit process, and help prove that the disability incurred in or aggravated by active service either caused or contributed substantially or materially to the cause of death. 38 U.S.C. § 1310. A service-connected disability will be considered as the principal (primary) cause of death when such disability, singly or jointly with some other disorder, was the immediate or underlying cause of death or was etiologically related thereto. A contributory cause of death is inherently one not related to the principal cause. In determining whether the service-connected disability contributed to death, it must be shown that it contributed substantially or materially, that it combined to cause death, or that it aided or lent assistance to the production of death. It is not sufficient to show that it casually shared in producing death, but rather it must be shown that there was a causal connection. 38 C.F.R. § 3.312.

A Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearing was held in February 2021 and all legal arguments were presented by attorney Kelly. In the end, the Judge agreed with Mandy’s arguments and held that the evidence supplied supported that the Veteran’s brain cancer was at least as likely as not caused by his exposures while serving in Kuwait, ultimately leading to his death. Furthermore, Mandy Kelly also argued that the accompanying epilepsy and psychiatric conditions were also secondary service connected conditions, for which the Judge agreed.   The lawyers at Disability Law Group understand that a favorable decision like this one gives minimal solace to a grieving widow, but we know that a veterans’ surviving family member needs a strong advocate in their corner to help obtain all benefits owed. If you, or someone you know, was exposed to burn pits or oil well fires, contact Disability Law Group today for your free consultation. Our attorneys and staff specialize strictly in disability benefits, and we will fight to help you win every benefit you deserve. Whether you were already denied or if you would like advice from the very start, contact us today and speak with one of our attorneys to understand your rights and get the representation that you need.